NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Day one of testimony in the murder trial of Kyle Barnhill ended Monday afternoon with jurors hearing the frantic 9-1-1 call from a neighbor who alerted police that Melissa Barnhill had been shot and killed.
Neighbor Tom Brainard, who is also an assistant pastor at Melissa Barnhill's church, and who made the 9-1-1 call, explained how he heard the gunshot which killed Melissa Barnhill.
He said their then 10-year-old daughter was stroking her hair and crying, then explained to someone who tried to instruct him how to do CPR that it was a lost cause.
The district attorney then played a recording of the call.
"Has she been injured," the dispatcher asked.
"I think she's been killed," Brainard said.
The childrens' cries could be overheard as Brainard told them to stay in the room.
"Stay here and keep praying, OK?" Brainard said on the call.
Brainard testified he then moved to another room and told the dispatcher CPR would not work.
"This woman is dead," he said on the call.
Brainard said he then took the children outside to the driveway as police came down King Row's Drive in Nacogdoches. His shouts flagging them down could be heard on the recording. The dispatcher asked if he could get their attention.
"...I guess I can flag them down," Brainard told the dispatcher.
Defense Attorney Bill Agnew asked Brainard if he knew the couple was in the middle of a divorce, if he knew Kyle Barnhill was struggling with the divorce and why Melissa Barnhill was not in church that night. Brainard replied "yes" to those questions.
Brainard said Melissa Barnhill did not go to church because she knew Kyle Barnhill was going to be there. He then confirmed for Agnew that Kyle Barnhill sent a text to the church's pastor that he would not be at church that night.
Brainard said he received police permission to take the daughters home with them. He described their behavior at his home as one of shock.
"One said, 'God, I love you. Please don't let my mother be shot," Brainard said on the stand.
Earlier in the afternoon, Barnhill enter a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity," and District Judge Ed Klein only accepted his "not guilty" plea.
"May I ask why?" Barnhill asked, referring to Klein not accepting the insanity portion.
"No," Klein said.
Barnhill is charged with the death of his wife, Melissa Kesinger Barnhill, in March, with a single gunshot through her kitchen window while she was cooking dinner for their children. Kyle Barnhill confessed to shooting his wife to death in a phone interview with KTRE.
During opening arguments, District Attorney Nicole LoStracco told the panel that she planned to present forensic evidence that linked Kyle Barnhill to his wife's murder and a witness who will testify that he sold Barnhill the gun used in the murder, among other witnesses. LoStracco also said the jury could hear testimony from the Barnhills' now eleven-year-old daughter, who witnessed her mother's death.
The defense deferred making an opening argument, reserving the right to give an opening argument at a later time during the trial.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected at 3 p.m. for the Kyle Barnhill murder trial.
The trial began immediately, apparently meaning Judge Klein has denied the defense's motion for a change of venue.
The defense attorney told the pool he just wanted a fair trial.
"All we're looking for is 12 people that can sit in that box and be fair," Bill Agnew said.
Monday morning, District Attorney Nicole LoStracco questioned each juror individually.
Examples of some question is if the potential jurors have seen or read any media reports and if their opinion of the case is so strong it can not be changed, if feelings toward LoStracco could sway their opinion, if feelings toward her husband, divorce attorney Jim LoStracco, could sway their opinion and if they knew Melissa Barnhill personally.
Kyle Barnhill smiled a few times throughout the process, and even laughed along with jurors at one point.
LoStracco named 20 to 30 potential witnesses, including Barnhill, Dan Taravella with Nacogdoches Police, Jim LoStracco and Jena Johnson of KTRE, who may testify in the trial.
Agnew sought clarification on some of LoStracco's questions. He also said Kyle Barnhill may not testify, and wanted to know if jurors would hold that against him.
One-hundred potential jurors showed up at the Nacogdoches County District Court this morning. Eleven jurors and one alternate will be selected to serve in the trial.